Wanna Have a Catch?

Field of Dreams

Last week I went to hear Bobette Buster speak at Calvin College’s January Series. Bobette works in Hollywood as a story consultant who works with major studios and is an addict processor at USC’s prestigious film school. As she was speaking about the methods to which Hollywood tells stories and how each of us should embrace our own stories I began to think which movies tell great stories. As I pondered, my mind kept floating back to “Field of Dreams” one of my favorite movies, a movie I have seen dozens of times. Late that night after the boys and Jess were asleep I decided to watch the movie, I am a bit of a night owl. I was instantly rushed back to the first time I saw that movie, my best friend Matt Herriff and I went with my parents to the theater. I remembered thinking it was a great movie because it was about baseball and I loved baseball, in particular I loved playing baseball with “Herf”, that was, and continues to be our nickname for Matt Herriff, my best friend since 1st grade. I loved playing baseball him because we were both so passionate about sports, we could play all day. I loved playing baseball with him because he was better than me at just about every sport we played and I knew he made me better. I have fond memories of a childhood of playing baseball with Herf.

I recall that later in life I appreciated just how beautifully the movie was shot, how moving the dialogue was, how James Earl Jones stirred up my emotions as he  gave his eloquent monologue about baseball. I was moved by the passion of Ray Kinsella, Kevin Costner’s character as he completely flipped his life upside down over a baseball field because he felt called to build one. How the sound editors picked the perfect song for every scene. Overall the movie is a wonderful piece of artwork.

Most of all I recall there was a point in life I realized that the beauty of the movie is in the importance of being able to connect with our parents. If you have seen the movie your recall that the closing scene is Ray and his father playing catch in the waining hours of an Iowa summer day. They are able to mend fences, Ray’s dad is able to come back to life via the baseball field Ray built, and they are able to fix much of what was broken in their relationship, they were able to make peace. Here is the scene if you need a reminder.


Most of you know that I am a pretty emotional guy and it doesn’t take much for me to get choked up, my Grandfather always says his heart is too close to his throat, unfortunately I have inherited that trait. That being said I dare you not to get choked up watching that scene.

As I watched that scene for the umpteenth time the other night I realized how blessed I was to have a father who would have a catch with me, who would take me fishing, or sit down and teach me how to lose with humility at a game of checkers. I had a mom who would bake cookies with us, who would sit on the couch and cuddle up and watch a movie with us.

Now, that I am a Dad of two amazing young sons I realize just how important those simple moments in life are. That hour at the end of a dock putting worms on a hook so they can fish, taking 10 minutes to sit and read to them, to hop on the toboggan with them and speed down and laugh your way down a snow covered hill, to make dinner with Will, to wrestle with Eli. It is important to “Have a Catch” with no agenda other than to simply be with your child, to build a better relationship, to smile and laugh. Unlike the movie we don’t get second chances at these things, we must to be sure we don’t waste chances to simply enjoy our kids. Unlike the movie we may not get the chance to make peace with our children or parents if bridges are burned or chances are wasted. Make it a point in life to never turn down the chance “to have a catch”.

I am thankful for Field of Dreams reminding me just how great my friend Herf is, I am thankful that it is such a beautiful piece of art, I feel blessed to have parents who were willing to “have a catch” and I am thankful that I too get to “Have a catch” with my two boys.


Mental Illness is Real

We all know someone or several people who deal with mental illness whether it is anxiety, depression, bi-polar or OCD we all know someone. We also know people who are ignorant enough to think that mental illnesses aren’t real, or that they are some kind of choice, that the people suffering are just choosing not to be a happy.

As someone who has struggled with mental illness, depression and anxiety to be exact, I promise you they are very real and it is not a choice, in fact I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy. Depression crept into my life while I was in college, no real reason, life was pretty good. Suddenly I struggled to get out of bed, I struggled to be excited to about things that would normally bring me great joy. I had trouble focusing on tasks and really struggled to complete school work. I felt like crying all the time and often felt sick to my stomach. The worst part was I had no idea why or what was going on.

Eventually anxiety decided that it too wanted to be part of the picture. That is when life really seemed to spiral out of control for me. There we times I couldn’t get myself out of bed, I literally couldn’t force myself to put my feet on the floor. When I was out of bed my heart would feel as though it was going to jump out of my chest, I would sweat, my hands would shake and for some reason I felt like the best way to deal with it was to run away and try to hide but that didn’t help. Eventually my friends and family convinced me that I should get some help, I started seeing counselors and making plans to take care of my mental illness. Over time and a lot of work the depression and anxiety slowly faded away.

There have been times that the depression/anxiety has tried to sneak it’s way back into my life but thankfully I am capable of recognizing it now and am not afraid to get help from doctors if needed.

Here is a poem and short article about mental illness that a young woman who has struggled to get her mother to understand what she is going through wrote. The poet/speaker does a great job of painting a picture of what dealing with mental illness is like.


If your son or daughter or maybe you yourself is dealing with mental illness don’t hesitate to get help. It isn’t a decision, it is an illness and many times if it goes untreated it can have major negative implications on ones life and the lives of the people around them. Mental illness is real and should be treated as any other illness would be treated by getting help. If you need help in knowing where to turn don’t hesitate to contact me.

More proof of that our teens don’t get enough sleep

I wonder when parents, school administrators and state governments will start to realize just how much research there is that shows our teenagers don’t get enough sleep and early school start times are partly to blame. Here is another article with proof.



 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. -Proverbs 10:9 (NIV)

Many of you may not know that one morning a week I work at a local golf course, most of the time when I work I am the first person there in the morning, other than the early hours it is great, I get the see the sun rise over the golf course and meet a lot of new people. Most mornings I find things are looking nice, equipment and carts were put away and washed as they should be and the club house was cleaned but on occasion that is not the case, you can tell that corners were cut. Many of the evening jobs that go into closing up the golf shop are done by teenagers and for many of them this is their first job and it is a minimum wage job. I know that the golf course struggles to find teenagers who will do their job with integrity, who will work hard and not cut corners, it can be very frustrating. 

I have found that to be true on many of our service projects and mission trips too. Students and even leaders at times want to cut corners, want to do as little work as possible even though we have come to that place to do work and have give our word to the organization or individual that we would get the job done and do it well. I spend much of my time motivating and reminding our group to do things the right way. 

This is where parents and influential adults need to step in, for this reason, we as humans are lazy by nature. I don’t have any stats or research to back this up, it is simply an observation. We as humans are going to cut corners and do as little as possible whenever possible. I believe hard work and integrity, by in large, are taught. I have heard integrity described a couple of different ways; first come from FaithWalking, which is a program our church has been a part of the last several years, they describe integrity as doing what you say you are going to do when you say your are going to do it. The second definition is this: Integrity is what you do when no one is watching; it’s doing the right thing all the time, even when it may work to your disadvantage. That particular quote is from Tony Dungy but that same idea has been said several times. 

We must work hard to teach our kids these ideas, that integrity is important, and  it is something that we cultivate and must practice to perfect it. Whether is it is homework, a minimum wage job, a service project or mowing the law we must teach or sons and daughters to do things right, to do this with in integrity. When we work with integrity we will be noticed when we cut corners and lazy we will be found out, this is a lesson our kids need to know. 


Overprotected Kids <- click here


Good article on overprotective parenting. Would love to know what all of you think after reading the article. Here is one quote that caught my attention

“our fear of children being harmed,” mostly in minor ways, “may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology.”

BTW I really want to build one of the playgrounds in the article


Still Learning from Mr. Rogers

I think most of us over the age of 30 are familiar with Mr. Rogers. His message was simple: you are special, you are lovable. This article is a great reminder of what he stood for and there are lessons in his quotes that all parents can learn from. Enjoy a little flashback to your childhood. (click the blue link to read the article)

“There’s been a recent backlash against how frequently this generation has heard that it’s “special,” and maybe some of that is deserved. But when Mr. Rogers called you special, it didn’t feel like entitlement or mindless praise. It felt more like a responsibility—like he was reminding you to live up to something.”

The Beauty of Silence

Last weekend on our annual Jr. High retreat to Cran-Hill Ranch we went on a late afternoon hike. It was a perfect winter day, the temperature was just right to be bundled up and spend the day playing out in the winter wonderland.  A group of about 10 of us headed out on this hike, we headed to Cranberry Lake, the smaller of the two lakes at Cran-Hill, it is at the back of their 300 acres, far removed from the busyness of the rest of the camp. It was great to hike in the snowy woods knowing that many of the student never had an opportunity to enjoy a walk in the woods, especially in the winter. When we got back to the lake it was stunningly pristine, we were some of the first people back there for what must have been weeks. There was hardly a footprint, no ice fishing shanties, no other people in sight, so we played on the ice for a while, made some cool snow angels, and threw some snow balls. As we were out on the ice on of my leaders, Tyler turned to me and said “listen” and that moment I stopped talking and did my best to listen and I didn’t hear a thing, not a sound other than a few Jr. Highers giggling. So we urged everyone to be silent, it took a few attempts because they are middle school students who can’t help but interject with the fake sound of a bodily function, but after a moment they caught on. The silence was amazing, being far removed from the rest of camp, with a foot a fresh powder insulating the woods you couldn’t hear a thing. The lake was so quiet I could hear my heart beat. After a few moments  the students began to become uncomfortable with the silence and began to resume the giggles and conversations but the leaders in the group knew that somehow God was in the special moment, it was something you couldn’t explain but it was a brief morsel of time were you knew that God was present, when you experience something new and amazing. 

That moment got me thinking how often to we experience the beauty of silence? And how often do we teach or kids about the beauty of silence? We live in a world that is filled with noise and when there isn’t noise we are sure to fill with noise. Spend a few hours with a teenager and you will see just how used to noise they are. In a noisy van on the way up to the retreat, where there were 4 or 5 conversations going at one time they still begged for the radio. When is the last time you saw a kid walk down your sidewalk without there headphones on, it is a rarity. Teenagers are used to noise, it is their comfort zone. I know that I am not much better, I always have music or a podcast on in my office, a fan on just to sleep, or the TV on at home just for background noise. We are uncomfortable in the silence. 

The problem is that God is known for speaking to us in the silence. If you recall the story of the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings you know that he was hiding in the mountains in a cave when God told him to go out onto the mountain and listen for God to speak. There was an earthquake and there was fire but God did not speak in either but God spoke in a gentle whisper. 

How are we to hear the gentle whisper of God when our world is filled with noise pollution? How are teenagers going to hear the still small voice if we don’t teach them to appreciate the sound of silence? And even if we create a time for silence and God doesn’t speak in the silence I know that silence is good for the soul and in our world of sound clutter a moment of quiet can be magical, a moment where God is present. I was certainly reminded of that last weekend on an icy lake in the Northern Michigan woods. 



Do we need God?

A few weeks ago my friend Ben Stark came to SRC, the church he grew up at, to share the story of his pedal powered journey from Michigan to the Pacific Ocean in Oregon. Ben is a great  wordsmith and his stories of his long trek were incredible but their was one story in particular that really caught my attention. Toward the end of Ben’s journey he was riding through the high dessert in Idaho. It was hot and desolate, Ben had little water to drink, his body was weary from the long journey and he was riding into a headwind. He said it was one of the first times he recalls feeling a deep desperate need for God. He prayed and begged God for strength to finish this leg of the journey. 

While Ben was sharing this story I was deeply moved by the passion in his voice as he recalled those moments but I was also struck with a question: In our overly comfortable lives do we ever need God that desperately? Do we need to go on a semi-insane cross country bike trip or have a catastrophic life event occur in order to realize that we need God? Then of course the youth pastor in me thought how do we teach children and teens that they need God? Our lives are so comfortable, so easy, everything is at our fingertips especially for our kids. If life is that easy for most of us, how do we possibly teach or learn that we need God. 

I have wrestled with this story for a couple of weeks now and the best answer that keeps coming to mind is to tell stories. We should tell the stories of the Bible and tell our own stories. Tell of times in our lives or in the lives of others when God was desperately needed. Tell stories of time family or friends leaned heavily on God because they had nowhere else to turn. 

For me personally I was made aware of the need for God at an early age due to so many health issues that my Mom struggled with for most of her adult life. She had a massive brain tumor while in college and has major health problems since then. Just a few years ago she needed a double lung transplant due to complications from one of the surgeries from her brain tumor. I have seen my family cling to God in the darkest most desperate moment in life when even those in the medical community didn’t give my Mom much hope of making it. I learned that we need God, the giver of live because in those hopeless moments God is in control and that is a source of hope. No matter the outcome God is in control and will be with you no matter if the outcome is horrific or if the outcome is amazing. God is with us. This story formed me, this story is a story I need to tell. 

The problem is that not everyone has had those experiences and I hope not everyone has to. Those experiences cannot be artificially replicated either. So we turn to stories, we turn to God’s good book, we turn to the stories of our ancestors, we turn to our stories to teach those who have not yet realized that they desperately need God. We need not just tell the stories of the mega dramatic experiences but when we relied on God to get us through a tough day at work, when we leaned on God to help us have a better relationship with an estranged sibling, when we leaned on God to help us lose weight, or when we turned God to help decided what college to attend. No matter if your story is big and grand or simple and mundane, if you relied on God please share that story, the world needs to hear them. 

There is a beautiful thing that happens when we realize that we need God, our eyes are opened to the fact that others need God too. When that moment happens we have a chance to join God in bringing the Heavenly Kingdom here, to become God’s hand and feet. 


-I want to thank Ben for so eloquently sharing his stories and thank my friend Jamie Downing for putting up with my email and helping me wrestle with this